The Justice Files: One last chance

Justice Files

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – A man who maintained his innocence will not get his conviction overturned.

Ryan Burke who is in prison for aggravated sex abuse will have to ride out his prison term.  

In 2007, Burke was arrested for sexually abusing two children at the home of his friend.

“I was highly intoxicated and I entered the home,” Burke said during his 2011 parole hearing.

But what happened after that Burke maintained that he didn’t remember.

He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to at least fifteen years in prison.

“I respect the court’s decision,” he answered when asked for details of his actions.

At the parole hearing, the hearing officer said it appeared he was in denial. She also advised him if he didn’t admit to the crime it would be difficult for him to receive treatment and eventually be released from prison.

“I would never and have never knowingly shown a child pornography and I would never order a child to kiss an owie on my penis,” he responded.

His denial may be one reason his parole was denied. He will remain there until at least 2022. His appeals have also been rejected

But in 2018, the Salt Lake district attorney announced the creation of the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU).

It was made up of a former supreme court judge, federal prosecutor, and a noted defense attorney.  Their mission was to review old cases to see if mistakes were made.

“Once they make their findings and they reach their findings and their conclusions, we will publish those for the community,” said Sim Gill at the time of the announcement.

Burke submitted his case to the CIU for review.  

Earlier this month he learned the CIU upheld the conviction.

“His claim does not meet the standard and, therefore, does not amount to a valid claim of innocence,” the CIU wrote in its recommendation to the district attorney. “Based on our (review) of the facts and the history of his case, we find nothing that impugns his conviction or the sentence he received.  The panel recommends nothing be done to vacate, modify, or otherwise affect the conviction or sentence in Mr. Burke’s case.”

 As a result, Gill said his office “will not be taking any actions to vacate the conviction.” Burke’s case was the first findings made by the CIU.

Karl Winsness took note of Burke’s case and could relate.

“I’ve never got a factual or evidentiary hearing,” he told ABC4 news. “That’s what irritates me.”

Winsness spent 17-years in prison and has applied to the CIU for a review.

In 1988, he was arrested after opening fire on police, wounding one.

He fired four times when police entered his home on a no-knock search warrant. Winsness claimed police never announced themselves after breaking down his door. He maintained he had a right to defend himself from anyone entering his home unannounced. And he also noted that in the first police reports, there was no mention of officers making an announcement. But he obtained a secondary police report made later in which officers claimed they did announce themselves.

“I want to expose those guys for what they are,” he said.  “They were liars and they miscarried justice and I do believe the prosecutor knew it.”

Winsness said his public defender never challenged the manner in which officers entered the home.

In his view, the fourth amendment outweighs a no-knock search warrant that normally requires an announcement after a knock. However, the U.S. Supreme Court does allow for exclusions.

It’s unknown if the CIU will take up his case. But Gill said they will review all the applications and must meet the eye test before the CIU accepts it.  

To make an application visit the district attorney’s website.

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